Is PFAS in Canned Tuna: What You Need to Know

Is PFAS in Canned Tuna: What You Need to Know

If you’re like most people, you probably enjoy a can of tuna every now and then. It’s a healthy source of protein that can be easily added to your favorite recipes. But what if we told you that canned tuna might not be as safe as you think?

Recent testing conducted by the FDA detected levels of PFAS compounds in canned tuna fish. PFAS concentrations in tuna ranged from 83 to 1,748 parts per trillion. 100% of the samples in the study were contaminated. The agency did not identify the brands of tuna fish they tested. The FDA noted that they are unable to draw definitive conclusions about the safety of PFAS levels in seafood.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss what PFAS is, how it affects our health, and what you can do to avoid it.

Read my comprehensive article about PFAS contamination in our food.

Related articles about PFAS in our food:
Do Fish Sticks Have PFAS in Them? Surprising Results
Do Shrimp Have PFAS In Them? Shocking Answers
Does Salmon Have PFAS in it? What Are Your Risks?
Does Cod Fish Have PFAS in it? A Look at the Science
Does Tilapia Have PFAS in It? What You Need to Know

What is PFASPFAS molecule

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other similar chemicals. These chemicals have been used in a variety of industries for decades.

They’re often used in products that resist heat, grease, stains, and water. They can be found in nonstick cookware, food packaging, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, and firefighting foams.

Read my comprehensive article on PFAS to learn more about these forever chemicals.

How does PFAS get in my food?PFAS in Our Food

PFAS is a persistent pollutant that does not break down in the environment. It can enter the food supply through contaminated water, soil, or air.

Plants take in PFAS chemicals that are dissolved in water. Animals that eat plants can also be exposed to PFAS. Fish and shellfish can absorb PFAS chemicals from the water they live in.

PFAS compounds have been detected in the oceans across the world. These chemicals are absorbed into plankton and other sea life, which are then eaten by small fish. Predator fish, like tuna, consume these prey fish and absorb the PFAS compounds into their bodies. This cycle concentrates the chemicals in their bodies exposing humans to greater levels of PFAS when they eat seafood.

Health concerns and PFAS

PFAS exposure has been linked to a variety of health concerns in humans, including:

  • cancer
  • thyroid problems
  • immune system problems
  • high cholesterol
  • pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • liver damage

In addition, animal studies have shown that PFAS exposure can lead to developmental issues and low birth weight.

What Levels of PFAS in Food Are Safe?

There is no established safe level of PFAS in food in the United States. The EPA has Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) that establish safe limits for drinking water. Unfortunately, there is not a similar standard for our food.

One reason for this is that experts aren’t sure how much PFAS we can safely consume. Predicting how much of a dangerous chemical people can eat before they become ill is not an exact science.

Toxicologists – the health experts who do human risk characterizations – can’t agree on how to evaluate the risks. Various government agencies across the globe have established different levels and guidelines.

Maine CDC standard for PFAS in food

The Maine CDC is concerned about PFAS contamination if fish. They developed a very useful guide to let the public know what levels of PFAS in fish they can safely consume. Their new guide is a tool known as chemical-specific fish tissue action levels (FTALs).

FTALs provide the maximum concentration of PFAS in fish that is safe to consume. PFAS levels below their guidelines should have negligible risk of health effects. Maine’s guide also accounts for the bioaccumulation of PFAS in our bodies (i.e., these chemicals are not broken down or discharged). They provide a “meal advice” recommendation to let you know how often you can eat PFAS-contaminated fish.

The table below presents the safe concentration of PFAS in fish you can eat and how often you can consume it. These values are developed by the Maine CDC.

PFOS in fish (ng/kg) Meal advice
3,500 1 meal per week
7,500 2 meals per month
15,000 1 meal per month
30,000 6 meals per year
60,000 3 meals per year
> 60,000 Do Not Eat

European Food Safety Authority standard for PFAS in food

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Europe’s equivalent of our FDA, set a limit for combined exposure to 4 PFAS compounds in food.  The compounds they regulate are:

  1. perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
  2. perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)
  3. perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)
  4. perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS)

The EFSA limit for the combined total of these four PFAS compounds is 4.4 ng/kg of body weight per week.

PFAS in Canned Tuna Fish

Opened Can of Tuna
FDA found PFAS compounds in all 10 samples of canned tuna they tested.

The FDA has found PFAS chemicals in 3 of the 167 nationally distributed processed foods they tested. Tests showed detectable concentrations of PFAS in fish sticks, canned tuna, and protein powder.

The agency tested the food samples for 16 PFAS chemicals. Seven different forever chemicals were found in the tuna they tested.

FDA food testing methodology

Testing food for the presence of PFAS is difficult. To overcome this challenge, the FDA developed a novel analytical method to test for PFAs in food.

This new procedure can measure 16 PFAS compounds in food using liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry methods. Their new method was verified to be accurate for the following food matrices:

  • infant formula
  • strawberry gelatin
  • pancake syrup
  • cream cheese
  • shredded wheat cereal
  • lettuce
  • milk
  • bread
  • salmon

The FDA food test method quantifies the following PFAS chemicals:

Acronym Name
PFBA Perfluorobutanoic acid
PFBS Perfluorobutanesulfonic acid
PFPeS Perfluoropentanesulfonic acid
PFPeA Perfluoropentanoic acid
PFHxA Perfluorohexanoic acid
PFHxS Perfluorohexanesulfonic acid
NaDONA Sodium dodecafluoro-3H-4, 8-dioxanonanoate
PFHpA Perfluoroheptanoic acid
PFHpS Perfluoroheptanesulfonic acid
9Cl-PF3ONS Potassium 9-chlorohexadecafluoro-3-oxanonane-1-sulfonate
PFOA Perfluorooctanoic Acid
PFOS Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid
PFNA Perfluorononanoic acid
11Cl-PF3OUdS 11-chloroeicosafluoro-3-oxaundecane-1-sulfonic acid
PFDA Perfluorodecanoic acid


FDA canned tuna testing results

The following table presents the results from the 2022 seafood survey conducted by the FDA. This test summarizes the results for PFAS in canned tuna.

Item Description

Total PFAS (ng/kg)

Lemon pepper tuna


Chunk light tuna in water


Chunk light tuna in water


Chunk white albacore tuna in water


Solid white albacore tuna in extra
virgin olive oil


Chunk light tuna in water


Solid white albacore tuna in water


Chunk white albacore tuna in water


Solid white albacore tuna in water


Chunk light tuna in water


These results are in nanograms per kilogram (ng/kg), which is the same as ppt. If you ate 1 kilogram of the “Chunk white albacore tuna in water” – the highest concentration, you would ingest 1,748 nanograms of PFAS.

A kilogram is 2.2 pounds, which is a lot of tuna fish. However, a can of tuna weighs 12 ounces which is 0.34 kilograms. If you eat three cans of tuna fish, you’ve consumed a kilogram.

Which PFAS compounds were found in tuna fish?

The FDA found 7 different PFAS compounds in the 10 samples of canned tuna they tested. These compounds are:

  1. PFNA: maximum value = 77 ng/kg
  2. PFDA: maximum value = 151 ng/kg
  3. PFUdA: maximum value = 888 ng/kg
  4. PFDoA: maximum value = 137 ng/kg
  5. PFTrDA: maximum value = 250 ng/kg
  6. PFTeDA: maximum value = 50 ng/kg
  7. PFOS: maximum value = 195 ng/kg

The FDA did not identify the specific brands that they tested. This makes it impossible to know which brands are safe and which ones are not.

How much PFAS is in a can of tuna?

The FDA sampling program found two PFAS compounds – PFOS and PFDA – in canned tuna fish. Based on the agency’s report, we can determine how much PFAS is in a can of tuna fish.

Here is the data:

  • PFAS concentration in tuna: 1,748 ng/kg
  • Tuna weight in can: 12-ounces
  • PFAS in 1 can of tuna: 595 nanograms

What is the significance of these results? It’s hard to say, especially since the US has no safety regulations for PFAS in our food.

Maine’s Standard: The maximum PFAS concentration detected in the study was 1,748 ng/kg. Comparing this to the FTAL, we see that the lowest concentration bracket is 3,500 ng/kg. Maine’s CDC guidelines indicate you can eat canned tune 1 timer per week.

EFSA Standard: Let’s compare these data to the EFSA limit for PFAS of 4.4 ng/kg of body weight per week. An average person weighs approximately 68 kilograms (150 pounds).

Here is the math: 68 kg x 4.4 ng/kg per week = 299.2 ng per week

One can of tuna fish has almost twice that amount – 595 nanograms. This means that you shouldn’t eat more than 1/2 can of tuna per week.

In my opinion, no amount of PFAS is safe. This is troubling, especially since I really enjoy tuna.

What does FDA say about the results?

The FDA provided a lot of information but didn’t offer any explanation about how to interpret the results. The report indicates that PFAS was detected in every can of tuna fish, but they did not release the brand names of the tuna they tested.

In one statement, the FDA noted that the sample sizes in their study were limited. As a result, the results cannot be used to form definite conclusions about PFAS levels in seafood available to the public.

All of this has left many people confused and afraid.

The FDA’s main focus was that while low levels of PFAS were found in three types of food, there is currently “no scientific evidence” that the general public should be alarmed or avoid eating any foods due to these trace concentrations of chemicals.

What Can You Do

PFAS in Food Packaging
PFAS is commonly found in many food containers.

All of this information about PFAS in tuna is upsetting to many people. The question now is – what can you do about it?

Unfortunately, the FDA did not release the names of the brands of tuna they tested. This would have been very helpful. As it stands, we’re left to fend for ourselves.

The first step is to learn as much as you can about PFAS. I wrote an article about which products contain PFAS.

Food can become contaminated with PFAS through the following means:

  1. contaminated soil and water used to grow the food
  2. the concentration of PFAS in animals via feed and water,
  3. food packaging containing PFAS
  4. processing equipment that contains PFAS

Avoid these foods:

  • predator fish like salmon and tuna
  • filter feeders such as clams and oysters
  • microwave popcorn
  • prepared foods packaged in PFAS containing materials

Test your water for PFAS to be certain you’re not drinking it. Read my guide on testing your water for PFAS.


What foods are packaged with PFAS?

The FDA allows the use of PFAS containing materials to line food packages. This means that food manufacturers can use PFAS to line containers of:

  • soups
  • meats
  • poultry
  • seafood
  • dairy products
  • fats and oils
  • eggs
  • fresh fruits and vegetables (such as pineapple, mushrooms, and potatoes)
  • processed fruits and vegetables

Which foods have the most PFAS?

Prepared foods have the most PFAS. This is because they often come in contact with PFAS during packaging and processing.

Is canned tuna safe to eat?

The FDA has not released enough information for us to make a definitive statement about the safety of canned tuna. Until we know more, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid eating canned tuna.

How do you know if a product has PFAS?

Unfortunately, there is no labeling or required testing for food to let us know if it might contain PFAS. This means that you will likely not be able to tell if a product has PFAS just by looking at it.

Final Take

The FDA has been looking into the levels of PFAS in canned tuna, and they’ve released some preliminary findings. Unfortunately, it looks like a lot of canned tuna fish contains levels of PFAS that exceed what is considered safe. What’s worse – they did not release the brand names of the tuna they tested.

If you’re worried about the safety of your food, there are things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones. This article provided detailed information on PFAS and canned tuna fish, as well as advice on how to avoid PFAS in your diet.

Boch Richard

Richard Boch is a chemical engineer responsible for designing water filtration systems for industrial and residential customers. He has more than 20 years of experience with ion exchange, activated carbon, and reverse osmosis. Richard's expertise has made him a go-to source for municipalities and businesses looking to improve their water quality. When he's not working, Richard enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children. You can also follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

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